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How Can Museums Use Email Marketing?

Email marketing is a wonderful thing and one of our favourite methods of digital marketing. How better to remind visitors of how awesome your museum is than by creating a eye-catching email with bold call-to-action copy that goes straight into their inbox? While email marketing is a God-send to those tasked with marketing, there are certain best practice procedures to be aware of such as GDPR and email frequency that can help keep your organisation on the straight and narrow and successful. 

Email marketing platforms

Where does one begin when searching for an email marketing platform? Some platforms are more geared towards one industry over another – it’s not a one size fits all game! With that in mind, we’ve done some research and will recommend some of the best email marketing platforms for the arts and culture industry. We’ll also walk you through some boxes that must be ticked for a service to be worthwhile in today’s current climate. Below we recommend some of our favourites…

Constant Contact -The top dog in the email marketing game. When first creating your account, it’s possible to select your industry and then choose your level of email marketing experience in order to get carefully curated content and tips that are right for your experience level. 

There are two introductory price-points (both with the first month free!)

  • £15 which includes unlimited emails, customisable templates, branded/industry templates, basic e-commerce, contact list import, list-building tools and welcome email, pop-up forms, list segmentation, Facebook, Instagram & Google ads, marketing calendar, tracking and reporting, customer support, learning resources and many other handy features. 
  • £30 which includes all of the features listed above in addition to advanced e-commerce, customisable pop-up forms, automated email welcome & behavioural services, RSVPs, Subject line A/B testing, dynamic content, multiple users, event marketing, surveys, polls, coupons, online donations and much more. 

The Constant Contact interface is easy to use once you get the hang of it. Their customer support is also top-notch so they will be there to help if you get stuck. One aspect of this platform that we appreciate is that it really is a one-stop shop for all of your marketing needs. If you are creating and distributing surveys, polls, ads, events invites – then this is your go-to platform. They make it easy to create all of this content with a unifying theme. They also do a great job at optimising for mobile/web and offering users the option to track how their customers are engaging with their emails.

The ability to automate emails, create surveys and polls, beautifully solicit online donations, whip up dynamic sign-up forms and merge your account with Eventbrite to promote and track event attendance is really superb. All of these helpful features really set Constant Contact a cut above the cloth.

Mailchimp – This platform is one of the most popular email marketing platforms – but from more of an all-in-one  There are many attractive aspects of using this platform such as the user-friendly interface, the price-point, a gazillion customisation options, lots of templates and the ability to optimise send-time for emails and audience segmentation. Below are some basic templates that come with the free plan – take note that they are all highly customisable with your brand colours and selected fonts!

Mailchimp offers powerful insight and tracking tools such as: Marketing CRM tools, In-depth audience dashboard, specific contact profiles, signup forms, tags/labels, integrations, pre-built segments, predicted demographics, address finding services, automations and audience lookalike finder. 

For marketing tools, they offer the following: marketing emails, landing pages, digital ads, social media posts and postcard design. Over 100+ templates are offered with their essentials plan that are fit for various occasions such as a new product launch or a donation all-call. 

Not all of these nifty services come with the baseline “free” account – but they are there for those that like that platform and wish to pay the premium price tag. 

Here are the price-points for Mailchimp – note that they are all monthly fees: 

  • Free (£0) which includes 7 marketing channels, 1 click automations, basic templates and marketing CRM
  • Essentials (£8.25) which includes everything in free, plus all email templates (100+), A/B testing, custom branding, 24/7 support
  • Standard (£12.39) which includes everything in essentials, plus: automation series, retargeting ads, custom templates, advanced audience insights
  • Premium (£247.05) which includes everything in standard, plus advanced segmentation, multivariate testing, unlimited seats and role-based access, phone support. 

If you are interested in giving Mailchimp a go, we would recommend starting with the free plan and then considering an upgrade as your list grows. It’s a great (and free!) place to start where your audience list can grow. There are wonderful integration features to consider and all of the templates are modern, sleek and well suited for the arts and culture industry. 

An important downside to note is that there is little to no support for those on the free plan. Mailchimp is able to offer this low price-point because many people do end up upgrading their plan as their audience grows and they become frustrated with the limited capabilities on the free plan. There are certainly a lot of positives to using Mailchimp, but it’s imperative to weigh out the positive and negatives of going with a free, or inexpensive plan for such an important aspect of your digital strategy, email marketing. 

SendinBlue

While this platform is quickly gaining traction in Europe amongst small businesses, it is more geared towards businesses and some smaller organisations may not find it as useful. SendinBlue has plans that fit every budget and is very user-friendly, especially to first-time marketers. 

Here are the price-points for SendinBlue:

  • Free (£0) which includes 300 emails a day with unlimited contacts
  • Lite (£15) which includes all free features plus no daily sending limit
  • Essential (£23) which includes all lite features plus the ability to remove the SendinBlue logo from emails and advanced statistics
  • Premium (£39) which includes all essential features plus Facebook ads, Landing pages, Marketing automation, chat features, multi-user access
  • Enterprise (Quote only) which includes all premium features plus 10+ seats, managed setup and priority support, dedicated account manager, dedicated infrastructure, priority sending and SSO (SAML)

Just looking at the prices alone, you can see that this platform doesn’t offer the most value for your money when compared to Constant Contact and MailChimp. What differentiates this platform from the others is that the pricing is based off of the number of emails that you send. If you are sending under a vast number of emails per month, then perhaps this is the plan for you. They do offer a free trial as most of these platforms do so that you can get your feet wet and do a trial period. 

It’s important to note that Sendinblue markets particularly towards medium to large businesses, and are perhaps not the most suitable for nonprofit organisations. It’s powerful tools might not be necessary for smaller organisations that are trying to cut costs. 

Tools of the trade

Now that you’ve become acquainted with some of the top dogs that are in no way representative of the entire market, but are our suggested places to start, it’s time to delve into the nitty gritty. What that means is that we are going to introduce you to the most important aspects of email marketing. These are all useful tools to research and apply those findings to your own organisation. 

  • Mail automation
    Finding a service that allows you to design and schedule emails in advance will save you boatloads of time. This service is also pretty standard with most email marketing platforms. Some platforms also allow you to stagger sending and to optimise sending for when recipients are most likely to see/open the email. MailChimp has some excellent statistics to share on when people are most likely to open/engage with emails. Because they are such a large service and have a presence in so many inboxes, their data is very valuable and is worth examining.

Time optimization will be dependent on your time zone as well as local area, especially if you are located within a major city or somewhere more rural. The consumer habits in each of these respective environments will be different. With that being said, CoSchedule has produced data on the best time to send emails by gathering together several reports from email marketing platforms including Sendinblue and Mailchimp.

 

According to their research, the best time to send emails is during the week with a major dropoff in engagement during the weekends. 

Tuesday is indicated to be the optimal day to send one email with a follow-up on Thursday if you choose to send two in a week. 

Wednesday is mentioned as a favourable second, but it’s best to avoid Monday and Friday as people are usually slammed with work or looking to wrap things up before the weekend. 

To break down that data even more, the optimal time of day to send emails is also presented. According to CoSchedule’s interpretation of the 14 various surveys. The absolute opportune time to send emails is between the hours of 10:00 and 11:00 although to be fair, anytime between 8:00 and 12:00 is prime-time for maximum engagement. 10:00 is ideal, but there are those nutters (we are guilty of it too!) that check their email while in bed at 6am. If you think your content might go over well first thing in the morning, then perhaps go with that, but for maximum impact while the public is arriving at their desks and scrolling through their inboxes, the late morning is best. 

Here’s a helpful chart of when to think about scheduling emails from CoSchedule. We’d suggest using this as a template. Keep an eye on variants in levels of engagement when sending at different times.

It’s also possible to do A/B segmentation and send your emails in two batches to maximise impact by trialing two different sending times. 

Now, you’ve listened to us hammer away the importance of knowing your audience for the better part of the first week of this course, and that knowledge factors into email marketing as well. We’ve seen that it’s been broken effective to schedule emails for the most optimal times for readers. However, that optimal time varies according to different audiences/age groups. If you are investing your time and energy into researching time optimization, consider your audience and when they are most likely to engage with your content. 

  • Group segmentation

Knowing your audience and how it’s defined is important to group segmentation. Now this may be a division by which list your subscribers signed up for, but it’s important to note the segmentations within that list as well. What are the click-rates for subscribers? What are their buying habits and when are they most likely to open an email? All of this is very useful information and if you’re into analytics (which you should be!) then choose a platform that support audience insights and segmentation (Constant Contact & Mailchimp). 

  • User-friendly

Are you easily able to navigate around the interface? The drag and drop technique where you can choose content blocks such as images, text boxes and social icons and drag them into selected spaces on your email. These blocks are then further customisable, but the simplicity of this very visual method is appreciated by a lot of novice marketers. You don’t need to code – you need to copy… and paste… Really, this interface is the way to go, especially for smaller organisations that may need to have several people, not all experienced marketers help out on an email or newsletter. 

Mailchimp does a great job with this as we can see on the left. Their boxes and clearly defined and there are lots of image editor functions as well as the opportunity to embed custom code or video links. 

  • Website integration/Opt-in forms

The email marketing service that you choose must have the capability to be customisable to your brand. Maintaining brand consistency is not only import, but expected in today’s world. Most email marketing platforms offer the ability to create pop-up forms that allow people to sign up for a newsletter of their choice, even being offered the option to select certain preferences along the way. However, the choice between clicking on that subscribe button or not, may be the aesthetics of the sign-up form. Motivate people to hand over their email addresses and information by wooing them with sleek graphics and captivating content. Keep the text short, sweet and to the point. Make sure the colours and fonts are consistent with the rest of your branding, and make sure that the ability to customise lists is present if you are trying to create segmented lists. 

Back to basics

Now that you know nearly everything there is to know about how to select the right email marketing platform for your museum and the plethora of ways in which you can use it to target your audience, you’re ready to build up your email list! Don’t stress if you are starting from square one, building up a list isn’t that hard, especially if you do it in the following ways.

  1.  Ask your network – Organisation staff, trustees, stakeholders, partners, volunteers and frequent visitors
  2. Spread the word! – Put out some all-calls on social media channels to encourage people to sign up for specialised updates on your organisation sent straight to their inbox.
  3. Website plug-in – Most email marketing platforms have the option to add a plug-in to your website that adds a pop-up when people visit the site encouraging them to sign up. This is something that you’ll want to think strategically about because if you have frequent visitors to the website, they might get frustrated with the constant pop-up, especially if they’ve signed up already. However, if your website sees visitors on more of a sporadic basis, this could be a great way to capture their info and stay in touch. 

By now you’d have gathered the keys to the kingdom and understand all that goes into choosing the right email marketing platform for you, how to create and send emails to go out at optimised times, and how to segment and market to specific audiences through email marketing. 

There is still a lot more to explore on this topic, and thankfully there are a lot of resources available online to improve your email marketing game. Keep your knowledge sharp and remember to keep a watchful eye on your competitors. See what they are doing, be bold and ask them about their success, and model your strategies around what is working within the sector. 

One final word of warning…GDPR. That four letter acronym could be a whole course in itself, but we will give you the basics and the tools to research even further. 

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation. In 2018, GDPR came into effect in Europe which changed the way that companies and organisations were allowed to keep and use data they had collected from the public. Make sure you are familiar with the guidelines and following best practice when it comes to the data game. People are various cautious (rightfully so!) about what kind of information is held by a company and how it is being used. 

Having a clear data protection policy is a smart move for any organisation that handles data – with penalties at skyscraper prices, there is no room for making mistakes with these new set of regulations. 

With that in mind – go forth, explore, email and begin to digitally market!

About the author – Devon Turner

Devon Turner is an Arts & Culture Writer. She has worked extensively in arts marketing for both the visual arts and performing arts in the US and UK. Now living in London, Devon works in the arts and culture sector and enjoys traveling to visit museums.

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